Cozy Quarters
Published Nov/Dec 2004

Break away this winter to snuggle with your special ones
at these Midwest lodges.
By Patsy Bell Hobson

Amid this year’s holiday hustle, a trip for two may be the break you both deserve. These few getaways that are close to home provide rest and relaxation for those who wish to wind down, or amusements and shopping opportunities for guests who want a little more from a quick vacation.

Time for two
in a winter wonderland

Big Cedar Lodge near Branson, Mo., offers one of the most romantic holiday escapes in the Midwest. Snuggle up in a private cabin for an unforgettable holiday retreat for couples.

Decorated in country Christmas regalia and literally thousands of twinkling lights, Big Cedar Lodge is a dreamy winter wonderland. Carriage rides, wood-filled fireplaces and cookies at bedtime create the most romantic and relaxing holiday gift you can give each other.

Bundle up and enjoy the day filled with mountain beauty and activity. Enjoy a brisk wilderness walk in nearby Dogwood Canyon Nature Park or stroll along wooded lakeside walking trails. Other outdoor activities include trail rides, carriage rides and old-fashioned holiday wagon rides that include fireside hot chocolate and s’mores.

Begin a romantic evening with a quiet table for two by the native stone fireplace at Top of the Rock restaurant where the food is as spectacular as the view of Table Rock Lake. Enjoy signature selections of pasta, wood-fired pizza or rotisserie chicken.

Back in the privacy of your cozy cabin, cuddle up to the wood-burning fireplace, slip into a Jacuzzi for two, or snuggle under the luxury of quilted bed covers. Start the morning with your hands wrapped around a mug of hot tea or freshly brewed coffee. Special order your own Christmas tree or order a room service turkey dinner holiday feast complete with tablecloths, candles and containers for leftovers.

Capture the celebration experience with a holiday portrait or a horse-drawn wagon tour of the lights that outline every building at Big Cedar Lodge. Christmas festivities highlight a dozen days of celebration at the annual Twelve Days of Christmas program. The old-fashioned tree lighting ceremony is complete with a bonfire and hot cider for everyone.

Who knows, with any luck, maybe you will get snowed in at Big Cedar Lodge.

The northwoods in Kansas

While it’s been extremely popular with families since its 2003 opening, the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City, Kan., can be a romantic holiday getaway for two.

Request the Jacuzzi Fireplace Suite in this northwoods-themed lodge. The spacious smoke-free guestrooms include a wet bar with microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker. Tuck some holiday goodies in your suitcase (your favorite hot chocolate, snacks or drinks) and it will be tempting to never venture outside the four-story log cabin resort.

Great Wolf Lodge is located next to Cabela’s, a massive outdoor outfitter store, and the Nebraska Furniture Mart near the Kansas Speedway. If holiday shopping doesn’t tempt you out of your roomy quarters, there is no need to leave the lodge. The log cabin-style lodge has two casual restaurants that sport a campsite theme, a bar, a full-service spa, tempting confectionery and fitness room.

Though the main attraction at Great Wolf is the 38,000-square-foot indoor water park, you may be inclined to cuddle up near the fireplace and order room service for two. Water park passes are included with your stay. There is an inviting adults-only whirlpool in the water park.

A shopping retreat

The Lodge of Four Seasons makes for a glittering holiday retreat with daytime views from the room of the sparkling winter sun on Lake of the Ozarks and a nighttime view of the twinkling holiday lights decorating the resort.

Many guests combine a holiday shopping trip to Osage Beach Premium Outlets with a lodge retreat. Guests travel to the lodge in central Missouri every year just to see the elaborate Gingerbread Village that is on display Thanksgiving through Jan. 1.

Within the lodge are two casual restaurants: Breezes with a full menu and sports bar, and Soleil Café, which has the relaxed atmosphere and convenience of a sidewalk café.

Make dinner reservations and take the shuttle to the lodge’s premier restaurant HK’s Steak House that features award-winning prime beef. Save room for rich desserts made daily in the lodge’s pastry shop. Then, enjoy easy listening music as you cap off a romantic evening at the Blue Moon martini bar.

The next day, treat yourselves to a couples’ massage at the wonderful Spa Shiki that’s on site. After a shopping weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks and the Lodge of Four Seasons, you’ll return home ready to wrap.

Sleep with the eagles

Pere Marquette Lodge and Conference Center in Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton, Ill., overlooks the Illinois River; a winter escape from the whirlwind of holiday activity. A nature-lover’s paradise, this 8,000-acre park is famous for its beautiful fall colors and bald eagles during the winter.

Cozy up to the lodge’s 700-ton native stone fireplace built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Today the lodge lobby serves as a gathering place for a lodge tradition: a game of chess played on the life-size board.

Indoor recreation includes a swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna and exercise room. A selection of movies and a VCR are available, or bring your holiday favorites. Unwinding at this little lodge is easy. Choose a spacious room in the lodge or a cabin retreat. Bring a book and cuddle up near the giant fireplace or watch the ice flows on the river from the comfy chairs in the lobby.

The moderately priced dining room serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend buffets that draw diners across the Missouri state line. There are also restaurants, tearooms and a couple of wineries in the nearby towns of Alton and Grafton. Piasa Winery in Grafton bottles a sweet red wine and a white wine especially for Pere Marquette Lodge.

There are maps at the Visitors Center for marked hiking trails and the paved bike trail. Birders can set out on your own or reserve a spot at one of the park’s Eagle Day tours. November is a good time to see thousands of migrating white pelicans. The largest population of bald eagles migrates to the area in January and February.

Make reservations early to enjoy the quiet romance of the snuggly old lodge during Eagle Days. The bird watching and natural beauty of the park make the lodge a popular wintertime getaway.

Patsy Bell Hobson is a contributor from Liberty, Mo.

Above: Romance is in the air this winter. Escape to southwest Missouri to Big Cedar Lodge outside Branson. Winter walks, carriage rides, cozy accommodations and fine dining can be enjoyed. Big Cedar Lodge photo

Below: At Lake of the Ozarks region, The Lodge of Four Seasons makes a great holiday shopping getaway. Pick up gifts at Osage Beach Premium Outlets, then enjoy a couples’ massage at the Lodge’s Spa Shiki before taking in a steak dinner at HK’s Steak House on site. Lodge of Four Seasons photo

Before You Go

• Big Cedar Lodge, (417) 335-2777;

• Great Wolf Lodge, 1-800-608-9653;

• Lodge of Four Seasons, 1-800-THE-LAKE (800-843-5253);

• Pere Marquette Lodge and Conference Center, (618) 786-2331.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.

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